Good Sports: Father, son guide Fresno High baseball team to victory

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- For nearly five decades, the Papi name has been synonymous with Fresno High baseball.

Ken Papi took over the program in 1975 and would go on to win more games than just about anyone else around.

"He's in every Hall of Fame in the state, the Fresno Athletic Hall of Fame, the Fresno State Baseball Hall of Fame and the California State Baseball Hall of Fame. You name the Hall of Fame and he's in it," said Ken's son and current Fresno High baseball head coach Jason Papi.

The winning attitude that Ken Papi brought to Fresno High continues to this day with his son Jason now in charge of the Warriors program, but dad is never far away and remains on the coaching staff after stepping down as head skipper almost 10 years ago.

"I try to stay in the background, it's his show and his team," said Ken Papi.

Ken, now 73 years old, still attends every practice and prepares for every game like he always has while the Warriors play in a stadium that bears his name.

The school named the baseball field after him two years ago.

"It's a great honor to coach with him again, but a bigger honor to have my name on the stadium," said Ken Papi.

Jason never played for his dad growing up.

The younger Papi instead starred at Hoover High before going on to play at Fresno City College and later Fresno State.

"He always instilled in me and my sister to go out and work hard and if you work hard good things will take care of themselves. So he wasn't worried about us going to a different school and playing for a different coach. It was tough, it was really hard to be in the opposite dugout of my dad," said Jason Papi.

But they're together now - sharing the same dugout and passion for the game.

The elder Papi who also played at Fresno State, credits some of Jason's baseball mentors for helping his son become the coach he is today.

"Bob Bennet, Mike Rupcich, Ron Scott and he learned from them things that probably he would've never learned from me," said Ken Papi.

The winning tradition continues in 2021 with the Warriors claiming another league title this season despite some of the challenges that go along with leading a program from the inner-city.

"We've had a lot of success here at Fresno High and I try to instill what he taught me, you don't have to be the best player, you don't have to be the biggest guy, you don't have to be the most talented guy, you have to want to win and do the little things right. If you're doing the little things right, playing the game the right way, you're fundamentally sound you're going to be good," said Jason Papi.

The two say they'll continue to coach together as long as they can do it as they look forward to building on the tradition of baseball excellence at Fresno's old high school.

"I feel that if I'm half the coach that he was I'm going to be a pretty good damn coach. I work hard every day to make this program better," said Jason Papi.

The Warriors won 80% of their games in 2021 and head into the postseason winners of 14 straight.
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